By Ashlea Maher
Australian tastes in the UK are up for debate.
Marmite, the traditional British cultural rival to the ardently adored Australian iconic brand Vegemite, is ‘up in lights’ on Regent Street.
The world’s first Marmite shop was opened last week, promoting the brand and the flavour it gives British culture.
The PR campaign promoting the project centers on whether the nation’s people love or hate the British breakfast spread.
The pop-up shop is open for ten weeks and features 100s of Marmite products, a Marmite Union Jack, Christmas tree and love/hate voting wall.
As a further promotional move, organisers are planning for a Marmite versus Vegemite ‘face off’ taste test challenge, to see which of the rivaling spreads has the most distinctive taste.
Australian Times can reveal this news has Australians living in London ready to reignite a profession of passion for Vegemite and its worth as a cultural icon. Dedicated Australian cultural connoisseurs, Australia Shop owners Michael and Liz Mills, are adamant Australians in the UK are willing to step up to the plate and ‘get the knives out’ to prove their love of Vegemite.
They said the Australian adoration of Vegemite is actually even stronger than the British love affair with Marmite.
Vegemite is one of the main products sold at the Covent Garden shop according to English Mr Mills, with his customers buying the spread as a reminder of their homeland.
In his experience, Mills said Aussie expats have an even fonder love of the iconic brand than Australians back home.
“Crikey, Vegemite!…It’s part of the fabric of Australia,” Mr Mills told Australian Times.
“When Australians are away from home things take on a greater importance…being away from home has a weird effect on people.”
Mr Mills thinks the particular fondness of Vegemite by Australians in London is due largely to its sentimental value, saying, “Eating Vegemite brings back memories, it’s something like home.”
“It’s part of many Australians’ upbringing; sitting around the breakfast table eating Vegemite on toast,” Australian Mrs Mills said.
“We have a huge amount of Vegemite fans visit the store,” she added.
However the man behind the ‘Marmite movement’, founder of the brand’s promotion Rupert Pick, was sure his fellow British residents are also out to prove their love for Marmite.
To Mr Pick, Marmite is more than “black gooey stuff”.
He told Australian Times that the spread has not only shaped the traditional English breakfast and culture, but holds a unique place in many British hearts in the same way that Vegemite does with Aussies.
“People eat it because their parents did and their grandparents did,” Mr Pick said.
“[The shop] is a salute to Marmite…It was an adventurous idea to put Marmite’s name out there in London’s most premier shopping district, amongst the biggest fashion names,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous but it has paid off. It’s just right for Marmite because it is a funky brand.”
Mr Pick said the store is proving popular. “We’re even converting quite a lot of tourists,” he said.
Plans are being finalised for a taste challenge in the Marmite pop-up shop, with the hunt on to find the five biggest Vegemite and Marmite fans in the UK to represent their beloved black breakfast paste by being able to recognise it in a blindfolded taste test challenge.
“There is a strong rivalry between the Brits and Australians, right from cricket and tennis through to breakfast spreads,” Mr Pick said.
Mr Mills agreed: “The challenge will bring out the great competitive sprit between Australians and the British.
“Do it for our national pride. Do it for the fun,” added Mrs Mills.
Are you London’s happiest little Vegemite? If you can represent Australia in the great Vegemite versus Marmite face-off, email [email protected]
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